Friday, December 29, 2006

So Long 2006

The year 2006 is wanning like nobody's business, and that means it's time to recollect my ten favorite albums from the year. There was actually quite a lot of music this year that caught my fancy. In no particular order, my favorite ten are:

1. Jenny Lewis and the Watson Twins, Rabbit Fur Coat: I really got into Rilo Kiley this year, which in turn led me to this. And damn if this isn't some of the best music I've ever heard. Seriously. She's figured out how to make 21st century old-school country (of the Patsy Cline variety) and make it sound freakin' fantastic. Plus, they do a cover of the Traveling Wilbury's "Handle with Care." That takes balls, man...metaphorically speaking.

2. The Flaming Lips, At War With The Mystics: Maybe it's not as earth-shattering a stylistic leap forward as The Soft Bulletin or Yoshimi were, but it's still a damn fine album. "The Yeah Yeah Yeah Song" and "Free Radicals" are possibly the best one-two opening pair you could hope for, and the sonic textures rival their best work here.

3. The Raconteurs, Broken Boy Soldiers: I didn't used to care much for the White Stripes, but listening to Jack White's other band made me change my mind. This disc just rocks, period. The guitar interplay, the variation between Jack White's voice and Brendan Benson's voice, and a solid set of rock songs make this a must-have.

4. Bob Dylan, Modern Times: Hands down my favorite album of the year (it's a Dylan album. What did you expect, hmm?). Dylan digs even deeper into Americana and drags up some juke joint blues, vaudevillian song-and-dance, jazz-inflected pop standard, and anything and everything else he decided would be fun to play that day. His backing band is as sharp as ever (though I really miss Charlie Sexton's presence at the guitar post), and Dylan's lyrics are sharper still.

5. Tom Waits, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards: Because an odds'n'sods collection is pretty damn lame, Waits scrapped the idea, recorded like 40 new songs, and released it as the three-disc sprawl of Orphans. The three loosely-thematic discs consolidate and reinvent all of Waits's standard styles, hitting the hipster beat poet, boozy crooner, dimestore madman and musichall piano man (and everything in-between).

6. Ray LaMontagne, Till The Sun Goes Black: His first album, Trouble, is a brilliant CS&N-style folk rock collection; for this follow-up, he trimmed all the fat off the arrangements and created a sparse, almost harrowing atmosphere of forlorn lovers, alcohol haze, and gorgeous, delicate vocals.

7. Bruce Springsteen, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Sessions: Holy. Crap. I didn't know the Boss had it in him. This is one of the most startling sets I've ever heard. The Boss, usually such a perfectionist, abandons his bombastic wall of sound for a bombastic New Orleans/Dixieland Jazz band, horn section, banjo, and all. He takes songs that are decades (or even centuries) old, shouts out chords as they come up to the band, and just tears through these songs like a man half his age with something to prove. In the process, he reinvigorates the songs and himself. If Springsteen decides to pursue this sort of stuff more often, I'm in favor of it.

8. Butch Walker & The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites, The Rise and Fall of...: I know he writes songs for Avril Lavigne and all that, but the man can churn out a catchy song like nobody's business. His new backing band, the Let's-Go-Out-Tonites, keep the songs supple, tight, and energetic. Easily his best work since the end of the Marvelous 3.

9. Pearl Jam, Pearl Jam: Who knew the veteran grunge rockers had it in them to be this straight-forward and badass? They do, and this is their best record in years (and also their most accessible).

10. Tom Petty, Highway Companion: Speaking of "best album in years," this is probably Petty's strongest collection since the mellow perfection of Wildflowers. Sure, The Last DJ had a couple of minor gems tucked away amidst all the angst and rage, and Echo is a better album than I originally gave it credit for (how I hated that album when it came out on the heels of Wildflowers), but neither album felt like he was really putting that much effort into the proceedings (or worse, that he was trying much too hard to make the themes work and make the songs tell stories instead of just letting the stories tell themselves). They lacked the seeming effortless grace of Wildflowers, felt forced and sometimes heavy-handed, and just didn't work as well as Wildflowers. Highway Companion, while not as good as Wildflowers, is still a worthy descendant of that masterwork.

There were a lot of other excellent records put out this year, and honorable mention goes to Sean Lennon, Thom Yorke, Barenaked Ladies, Gob Iron (Jay Farrar of Uncle Tupelo and Son Volt fame), Robyn Hitchcock, Golden Smog, Van Morrison, and The Who. All of their albums were excellent and worth a listen. Go check 'em out.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Ain't Talkin'"

Monday, December 25, 2006

"Dorothy Mantooth Is A Saint!"

Hope everyone's had a happy Christmas/Solstice/Hannukah/Kwanza/Festivus. Things here at Casa de Chuck y Michelle have been busy as all hell, as you can imagine. We still don't have internet for some reason. I tried setting the cable and internet up on Saturday, but nothing was registering. It's either something with the outlets, the apartment complex, or something we don't know about. Should be able to find out tomorrow.

Thankfully, someone in the area has wireless and we're able to get access with Michelle's laptop. Don't really want to do this for long, mind, but it gives us a temporary solution until we can get our own internet working.

Michelle and I ended up staying here in Fairfax for Christmas this weekend. She fell ill Friday, so we decided to let her family go without us. We've spent the weekend relaxing and doing...well, pretty much nothing. It's been nice, honestly. We haven't really had any time off since before we moved, so we needed a weekend of doing absolutely nothing.

Christmas turned out pretty good for me. Got an iPod, several DVDs (the original Star Wars trilogy, volume four of Family Guy, the That's My Bush! DVD collection, Arrested Development Season 1, and a Jeff Tweedy live set), a Leadbelly CD collection ('cause Michelle rocks), Soul Calibur III (which is hellacool), and various other things (including a harmonica). Also got quite a bit of money, most of which will be socked away for a later date (like buying Michelle's wedding ring).

Tomorrow, I'm going to try to get a thing installed in my car that will allow me to play my iPod through the car stereo. Also gonna get the oil changed and do a bunch of other stuff with Michelle that needs to be done. The rest of the week is devoted to finishing up the unpacking upstairs that we might finally have a bedroom that looks liveable.

Yes, we have noble dreams and aspirations. Probably unrelastic ones as well.


Song of the Moment: Leadbelly, "Rock Island Line"

Thursday, December 14, 2006

"There'll Be A Knock On Your Back Door"

Well, tomorrow's the day of the Big Move. Well, Day 1 of the Big Move (hey, allow me this one use of gratuitous capitols. It doesn't happen often). We should be able to completely clear out my stuff from this apartment tomorrow, assuming I can get the rest of it packed up tonight (considering I've run out of boxes, this could pose a problem).

Went into DC today on a field trip with the school. We went to DC Central Kitchen, which is a community kitchen that provides food for those in need in the DC metro area. It was a fantastic opportunity for the students to do some community service at a time of the year when a lot of people need help. Unfortunately, I got to spend the entire field trip sitting with the bus. We didn't have a real parking spot, so someone had to be there in case the bus needed to be moved. Since I was the one who'd driven the damn thing, I volunteered to stay with it. Not the most exciting way to spend the day, but it beats a swift kick in the pants (of course, most things do).

It's strange to think that I'm moving out tomorrow. I'd kinda settled into this apartment, even if it always felt like I was just visiting Wendy and Tim. Wonder how long it'll take me to get used to living in the new place and with my fiancee...


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Strangulation"

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

"The Folk Singers Sit On Their Front Porch"

One of the upshots of having listened to the old-school Yeti stuff earlier today is that now I really just want to sit and play Yeti songs all night long instead of packing. Thus far, I've managed to resist the keening urge to pick up the Martin and just strum out a dozen of our songs. I've packed lots of boxes. The closet is mostly packed. All of the CDs are packed. I'm working on the last of the books and the stuff in the desk, which is something of a beast. I fear to see what resides under the bed.

But I've been good. I've been packing. I should be able to finish whatever I don't get packed tomorrow.

Granted, I've been wasting time sitting here typing this. Dammit.


Song of the Moment: Ben Folds, "The Ascent of Stan"

"Hear It In These Lines"

So, although my car heater was fixed Saturday, it's still at the shop. See, the car developed a nasty coolant leak (though "leak" is a rather small term to describe the torrential flood of coolant that exited the underside of my car with amazing rapidity on Sunday afternoon). I took it back to the service station Sunday afternoon and left it there so they could work on it Monday. Unfortunately, issues with their equipment meant they didn't have a chance to work on it until today. The car is ready now, but I haven't been able to go pick it up quite yet.

On the positive side, though, Michelle's father was kind enough to loan me his van until my car is fixed and back in my possession. So I've been cruisin' in the Plymouth Voyager van since Sunday. Lemme tell ya, I'm ready to be back in my car.

One positive aspect to the whole I'm having to drive a freakin' mini-van thing is that I've had the opportunity to listen to an old tape I found in the bottom of my pit of a closet last night. It's the tape Clif and I recorded back in the summer of 2002 of the original Cross-Eyed Yeti tunes. It's interesting listening to the songs we'd picked out to record back then (a lot of them ended up on the CD we made the summer of 2003 in Norman), hearing how the songs had changed (man, some of those have been sped up from their original recording version) and what songs we've stopped playing (I can't remember the last time we did "I Dig Chicks"). We actually had some good stuff (I really wish we'd do a proper recording of "Folk Singer's Blues," 'cause that song actually kicks a significant amount of ass) that is just sitting in the "vault," as it were. The Clyde and I really just need to get together and record some of this stuff properly somewhere (there's a place down in Fredericksburg I still want to try out at some point).

The first half of that cassette was the original "album," about 14 songs (including the two "bonus" tracks, "Country Joe" and the "Hummingbird Version" of "Lord, Take Me Home WHere I Belong"). The second half was a "show" we played at the Mammoth Hot Springs employee pub that summer with mom and dad in attendance. The live show was pretty interesting (we could tear up when we wanted to), though dear God, what were we thinking letting Clif sing? And where did I get it in my head that I could sing the Beatles' "All My Loving?" Ah well. Many of the original tunes had an energy and a fire that impresses me. I also rather liked the poor sound quality on the tape. It had an old-fashioned, homemade feel to that I really dig. Worked especially well on "Folk Singer's Blues." My biggest complaint about the CD we made is that it sounds too cold, too sterile and small. There really is something to be said for recording with analog equipment, I guess.


Song of the Moment: Cross-Eyed Yeti, "Folk Singer's Blues"

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Sonny, Move Out To The Country"

Today, I spent over $1100 on furniture. For this rather large expenditure of money, Michelle and I have a sofa and love seat (worth at least $1500-$2000 on their own), a dresser, a kitchen table, six chairs for said table, three really nice bookcases, and some odds and ends. Ikea, it turns out, is your friend. Overall, we ended up spending about $1600 on furniture and necessities (vacuum cleaner, dish drainer, cleaning supplies, etc.) for the new apartment, which is pretty damn good when you think about how expensive it can be to totally outfit an entire apartment.

Friday is the big moving day. Michelle and I decided it makes more sense to get all my stuff moved on that day, since it can all be moved by the two of us, and then move all the stuff at her place (everything that she and her sister have) on Saturday. It's more efficient that way, really. So we'll spend Friday moving all my stuff, putting together all that modular furniture we bought at Ikea, and basically getting everything started. Saturday will be the heavy, bulky stuff (entertainment center, couches, etc.) and all of Michelle and Allison's stuff. Seems like a good plan.

Admittedly, the plan relies rather heavily on me having everything packed by Friday morning. We'll see how that goes.


Song of the Moment: The Beatles, "The Long and Winding Road"

Saturday, December 09, 2006

"I Go To My Hollow"

As you can probably imagine, I've been rather busy this week. I've packed about a dozen boxes, mostly of books and DVDs and papers and such. It should all come together by early next week, I hope. Then we have to get Michelle packed up and ready. We've got enough people helping that, if we can have everything packed and ready by next Saturday, the move should go remarkably fast.

I learned a My Morning Jacket song ("Dondante") and a Raconteurs song ("Blue Veins") this week. I was rather proud of myself. Also found Dad's Christmas presents, so that was groovy. I need to mail the family presents to Oklahoma this week, or they won't make it by Christmas.

The heater in my car is being fixed as I type this. Should only run about $200, which is fantastic compared to what I feared it'd cost.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Moonshiner (Live)"

Saturday, December 02, 2006

"As I Reach For A Peach"

Despite the fact that we move in two weeks, I still haven't started to pack anything. In my defense, I've been rather busy and still don't have boxes to pack things in; I need to go to the local liquor stores and see if I can finagle some boxes out of them.

My assignment for today: create the image for a Christmas card. Michelle and I are sending out a joint Christmas card this year, and I was commissioned to design the front of it. Then we'll go to Kinko's and make lots and lots of copies to send out. Should be fun.

Tonight is Michelle's office party. We're attending, apparently. She says I should enjoy it quite a bit, what with the good food and the interesting people (so says she; I'm not convinced there are all that many interesting accountants in the world, and I don't see how a concentration of them could have ended up all working for the same company). Ah well: such are the things we do for those we love. 'Sides, I've never said no to a free meal yet.

Tomorrow night: Tenacious D. Oh yes, the house shall be rockin'.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan and the Band, "Like a Rolling Stone (Live)"

Thursday, November 30, 2006

"Where Thrills Are Cheap And Love Divine"

Today I finally completed the horrendous experience that has been my midpoint portfolio course. Honestly, of all the stuff I've had going on this semester (two other classes, working full-time, trying to find a new place to live, getting engaged, and worrying about whether or not I'd have enough money do the things which need be done), this damn one credit hour course has been the most stressful thing going.

The professor was condescending, didn't recognize graduate-level writing (in part because I was writing like I would for a history paper; education papers, apparently, are more direct and less verbose. In other words, more boring), and apparently thought I was inept and incompetent. I hate being condescended to, and my meeting with her today was a half hour of her being condescending and downright rude and insulting (both to me and to my content discipline). The fact that she would insult me to my face while making it sound like a joke fucking pissed me off. I was stressed out about this damn thing all day long, worried over it and uncertain of whether or not I'd even be done with it today (thank God, I am). I was so stressed in the hour leading up to it and the three hours following it that I couldn't see straight. My whole body was tense, I shut down mentally and almost physically, and actually looked noticeably frustrated and upset.

Anyway, it's over and done with now; Michelle was able to calm me down and help me feel better this evening (a sure sign that she's really the one I'm supposed to be with. When I'm in a bad mood, people usually only aggravate the mood, but she made me feel better. There's not many as can do that). Tomorrow's Friday, today was payday, and everything's really coming up Millhouse aside from this whole debacle.

This weekend is Michelle's office Christmas party. Apparently we're attending. Should be interesting. Sunday is Tenacious D at the Patriot Center. To say that I'm looking forward to this show is to grossly understate the case. The D are about as good as you can get, honestly.


Song of the Moment: Kings of Leon, "Holly Roller Novocaine"

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"Hey Little Bird, Fly Away Home"

So, like most of the hip kids this week, I did the giving of thanks thing. Went over to Michelle's place and had Thanksgiving dinner with her family. It's strange, but I think her father genuinely likes me. They're apparently getting me Christmas presents and everything.

Michelle and I signed the lease for our apartment on Saturday. Looks like the place should be great to live in, actually, and we're looking forward to getting moved in on the 15th.

Speaking of moving in, we helped Lauren move yesterday. Took us like seven hours, but we got all of her stuff moved from one location to the other. I'm achy and tired today, but that's alright. We got her all moved, and she'll be helping us when the time comes (insert maniacal laughter here).

Michelle and I used this money I got from Borders (holiday reward money or something like that) to pick up a few things this weekend. I got a couple of graphic novels I'd been wanting (the latest volume of Trigun Maximum and a Batman collection about the death of Jason Todd, Robin #2) and we also picked up the new Tom Waits collection, Orphans: Brawlers, Bawlers, and Bastards. The Tom Waits collection is freakin' fantastic, as were the two comic books.

Played a heckuva mess of Final Fantasy XII this weekend. I'm finally starting to get the hang of it, though the Clan Mission Hunts are still kicking my ass most every time (good thing they're only side quests). Fact is, I think I may be going to play some more after I finish typing this.

Oh, who am I kidding? Of course I'll be playing some more after I type this.

Why the hell am I still typing?


Song of the Moment: Tom Waits, "2:19"

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

"Must Accumulate"

Michelle called me this afternoon before I left school. Apparently we got the apartment we applied for, which is fantastic. Even better, though, is the news that our security deposit will be the entirely-manageable sum of $250. Since we were expecting upwards of an entire month's rent ($1295) for the security deposit, this is great. Also, our rent in December will be pro rated, which means we're only paying a portion of it (likely half, since we'll only be there for half of the month). So that's turned out very groovy.

Spent a good part of the late afternoon/early evening napping, as has been my bad habit this week. Dunno what it is; probably just really stressed about stuff (like that thrice-cursed Midpoint Portfolio that's still hanging over my head. But the rant for that is best heard, not seen in type, as the typed words lose some of their venom and vitriol in the translation).

At some point in the next couple of days, I'm going to do a write up on Dylan's trio of Evangelical Christian albums...y'know, those three that no one in their right mind but an obsessive Dylanophile would pick up? Should be an interesting read, I think.


Song of the Moment: Son Volt, "Strands"

Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Monthlong Vacations In The Stratosphere"

Two classes down, one left. Unfortunately, it's the one that has been the thorn in my side all semester: Midpoint Portfolio. I really dislike this class and the professor. She's pompous and condescending and treated the class like a bunch of five year olds. Instead of explaining everything in a straightforward fashion, she tried to make things more complicated by over-explaining them. She basically fills me with rage. Much rage.

The Oriental Store (the convenience store next to school where we usually go to get sodas and snacks) accidentally overcharged me $160 for something on Friday, overdrawing my checking account and pissing me off considerably last night. I'm going to go talk with them tomorrow and see if I can't get it fixed.

Went and checked out an example apartment yesterday that Michelle and I both quite liked. The complex looks really nice, the apartments were recently renovated, and the cost is great. We went ahead and filled out applications for the apartment and reserved a two-level townhouse-style apartment. We should know in a week or two if we get in, but I don't think we'll have any trouble.

Spent Friday night hanging out with Michelle's friends Sara Ryan and Suzanne. We chatted about music, work, and the stupidity of people. It was rather fun, and I got to show off my knowledge of Robert Johnson. That's always entertaining.

Last night, Michelle and I (well, mostly Michelle) cooked dinner. We had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, and biscuits. All very tasty. There's plenty of chicken left, so I think we're going to try to turn it into curry and/or chicken soup. I know how to make the former, Michelle is apparently an expert at the latter. Should be groovy.


Song of the Moment: Bruce Springsteen, "Lost in the Flood"

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

"A Place Where We Used To Live"

So my roommates bought a house today. Well, the offer they put in on a house was accepted today, I should say. Which means they'll be moving by the end of next month. Which means I've got like three or four weeks to find a new place of my own. I went and looked at an apartment complex this evening after work. Michelle and I are going to go take a look at an actual apartment in the complex on Saturday. If it looks good, we'll give it a shot. If not, we've got a list of other possible choices to go through. We'll find something.

Finished up the first of the three education classes I'm taking this semester on Tuesday night. The second one ends tomorrow night, and the third one comes to a crashing halt next Tuesday. I can honestly say I'll be glad to see the back of these classes. They've been nothing but a huge pain in the ass.

I'm a tired monkey. So very tired. But there are many things to be done between now and bed. Off I go.


Song of the Moment: Cake, "Shadow Stabbing"

Friday, November 10, 2006

"No Alarms And No Surprises"

Made it through another week. Even though we only had students for three days this week, it still seemed like a full week (hell, seemed like more than a full week, really). Seems all the students were a little wound up because of the four-day weekend, while all the teachers were a little worn out because of the two days of in service and entirely too much happening at once. On the plus side, my boss let us leave at 3.00 today instead of 4.00 (but still gave us credit for being there until 4.00), so that was nice.

Tomorrow, Michelle and I are probably going down to Harrisonburg to visit Cristabel. Haven't seen her since I helped her move back over the summer, so it'll be good to chat and visit and such.

I've been working on putting all of my CDs on the 250 GB external hard drive. I'm probably over halfway through, but it's taking awhile. Turns out I have a hell of a lot of Dylan. Like enough Dylan to fill Michelle's 4 GB iPod Nano if we wanted to. That's a lot of nasally folk and blues rock, that is.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Talkin' Bear Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues"

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

"The Girl That I've Been Seeking For"

So I got to meet Michelle's parents Sunday afternoon. The meeting and meal went well. Her mom apparently adores me and her father tolerates me (which is apparently all you can ask of the man). I was (I think) fairly charming, didn't say anything that'll come back to haunt me, and basically proved my intentions are good and all that. Very groovy.

Past couple of days have been hellish. I was awake until 4.00 this morning working on a case study for my class tonight, and I have to do revisions to my midpoint portfolio after we get out of class and post those electronically before I go to bed.

So yeah, Chuck is a tired

Picked up a 250 gigabyte external harddrive for $100 yesterday at Staples. It now holds all of my iTunes stuff. During the next week or two, I'm going to put the rest of my CDs on it. There should be more than enough room.

Michelle and I probably don't get to keep the apartment I've been living in for the past year and a bit. It's really too expensive for just the two of us, and getting a roommate in time would be a huge hassle. So we're looking at a couple of other options this week, including a rental house that Wendy emailed me a link to and an apartment complex that looked to have some decent apartments and a discount for educators (hurray!). Hopefully we'll find something relatively soon.

Oh, and anyone who owes me large sums of money, now would be the time to pay those back if you can. Movin' is expensive stuff.


Song of the Moment: The Byrds, "Mr. Tambourine Man"

Saturday, November 04, 2006

"I Gave My Golden Thing A Gold Wedding Ring"

I have Michelle's engagement ring sitting here in front of me. The thing is absolutely gorgeous. Hartoon's, the jewelry store in Shawnee that mom had the ring made at, did a fantastic job. We've used them for jewelry stuff for years (mom's on a first-name basis with the woman who owns the place), and they set her diamond for this particular ring and got it shipped out here faster than I'd have thought possible (mom was only in Shawnee like a week and a half ago. And I've already got the ring. That's fast service, that is).

Anyway, when Michelle comes over in a little bit, I'm going to give her the ring. Dunno how or where yet, though. I know there'll be the whole going down on one knee and professing undying love bit, but beyond that it's all up in the air. I should find someplace nice to do it, though she really just wants the ring and doesn't care about the ceremonial aspects of all this. Admittedly, I'm not usually one for ceremonies and formalities, but some things you just have to do, y'know?


Song of the Moment: The Byrds, "Eight Miles High"

Friday, November 03, 2006

"One That Won't Make Me Nervous"

Michelle is asleep in my bed, as she has been for the past two or so hours. She apparently didn't sleep well last night (though she rarely gets a full night's sleep. I dunno how she functions on the little rest she gets), but she's having no trouble here.

Her ring arrived in the mail today, but I wasn't here to receive it. I'll go down to the Post Office in the morning and pick it up. Then I have to get my heater fixed. Dunno where I'm going to get that done, but I'm sure there's someplace around here that could do it.

Been playing more Final Fantasy XII this evening. Getting decent at it. Granted, I've died a few times more than I'd care to mention, but what can you do, right?

Anyway, busy weekend ahead of me. Need to do grades, Portfolio revisions, and my Case Study. No rest for the wicked.


Song of the Moment: Soul Coughing, "Blue-Eyed Devil"

Thursday, November 02, 2006

"Don't Fall Through The Stars"

A few points of interest:

First, Midpoint Portfolio still fills me with rage. We spent three and a half hours Tuesday night being condescended to. I'm not used to be talked at like I'm 5. I'm used to condescending to other people.

I have three major things due Tuesday: grades, Midpoint Portfolio revisions, and a case study for Reading and Language Development. None of them can be moved from this date. I am most frustrated with this and will likely kill someone because of it.

One of my coworkers went as me for Halloween. He had everything down right: the beard, the hair, the clothes, the way I walk around with my hands constantly in my pockets. I'll load a picture of it for y'all to see soon.

My fiancee is still the coolest person on earth. When her iPod died today, she went back to Best Buy to get it fixed/replaced. She opted for replacing it with one of the newer-generation iPods, but got the 4-gig model (the size she had before) rather than the upgraded 8-gig one. As a result, Best Buy gave her a $50 gift card in addition to her iPod. She used it to get me Final Fantasy XII.

Yes, that's right: my fiancee bought me a videogame.

It's okay, though. It's not like I've got a dozen different things on my plate right now. I don't need sleep. I have time to play, honest.


Song of the Moment: Mike Doughty, "Gray Ghost"

Monday, October 30, 2006

"Under Pressure"

I'm currently neck-deep in my Midpoint Portfolio, the biggest steaming pile I've yet to encounter in the whole compost heap that is the Master's of Education program, but I thought I'd pause to relate an amusing anecdote from my life to you, the faithful reader.

I woke this morning at a decent time, which is roughly ten minutes before I usually wake up. I stretched and began the blind grope-search for my glasses on the nightstand where I always leave them. They weren't there. I checked on the floor, as sometimes I accidentally knock them off when I toss or turn during the throes of the night. Not there, either. I began searching the other nightstand, where I know I never keep the glasses. They weren't there. I was starting to get a little panicky; not because I really need my glasses to get from my room to the bathroom, but because these are my glasses we're talking about here. Sure, it's just a pair of glasses now, but what next? My wallet? My keys? My cellphone? My guitar?

This was clearly an issue that needed resolving, and fast.

So I sat up in bed, intent upon continuing my all-important search. Time be damned, I needed to find my glasses.

It was at this point that I noticed I could read the alarm clock from my sitting position in the middle of the bed, albeit with a bit of fuzziness to everything.

Hmm, that's odd, I thought to myself. I can't usually see the alarm clock when I first wake up without my glasses.

That's when I realized I hadn't taken out my contacts the night before.

The mystery of the missing glasses was then easily solved: they'd never left the bathroom counter, their resting place during the day while the contact lenses do all the work. So I took out the contacts and tossed them in the trash (something I'd have done Tuesday night anyway, what with the beginning of the new month and all) and wore my glasses all day.

Of course, my glasses have a slightly weaker prescription than my contacts, so things have been a bit blurry all day and I've got a bit of a headache...

And now, of course, I've been staring at a computer screen all night. You gotta admit, there's just something not right with my head.


Song of the Moment: Elliott Smith, "Coming Up Roses"

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"Shuffle Through The Aches And Pains"

I got a lot accomplished this weekend. At least, it feels like I did. Really I just got a couple of very big things figured out, so even if I didn't do much I at least did things that were important.

For starters, Michelle and I have found a bed and breakfast at which to do the wedding thingie. That was a load off. Tonight we're having a discussion with Wendy and Tim about the feasibility of Michelle and me taking over the apartment after they get a house.

I also watched several episodes of Seinfeld as part of my preparation to have dinner with Michelle's parents next Saturday. See, her father has a very specific pop culture frame of reference, and if I don't share this frame of reference I'll be in serious trouble (mostly of the "this guy is too damn stupid to marry my daughter" variety, I think). So Michelle and Chad sat me down and showed me several key episodes of the show. I think I get it now.

I'm currently working on artifacts for my Midpoint Portfolio. I have to say, I absolutely hate education classes. I hate this portfolio. It's all pretty damn pointless and stupid, and if I had any way to stop it all, I would. Possibly it would involve explosives. Or maybe just a big stick to hit things with. That'd probably work.

Halloween is Tuesday, and I'm trying to figure out what to go as that wouldn't cost much money. So far, very little (in fact, nothing) has come to mind. I suppose I could go as a Goth, but where would I find that much eyeliner and black clothing? And how do they actually fix their hair?


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Wordless Chorus (Live)"

Sunday, October 22, 2006

"He Gets Wise In His Own Eyes"

Had a busy week. Tuesday saw the midterm for my Reading and Language Development class. My group did well, scoring an A with no trouble (and getting finished first to boot). Thursday featured a guest lecture from one of the clinical psychologists from our school. She talked about multicultural education, and later commented that I was the best student she'd ever had in a class.

Friday I went with Michelle and got a new cellphone. Very shiny. We then went to hang out with Lauren. Saturday, I went and saw The Prestige with Lauren and her brother; then Michelle, Lauren, and I hung out that night and watched Labyrinth. Yes, that's right: two movies that featured David Bowie. I kept expecting him to say something like, "hey, listen to what I'm talking about. I'm Ziggy Stardust, bitch!" or "y'know, Diamond Dogs wasn't that bad of an album." He must have been doing so much cocaine during Labyrinth...

Today I went to church and then helped Wendy strike set. Michelle came over for a bit and had dinner with us, but then she had to go so she could attend the Frank Black concert up in DC. Her text message earlier this evening indicated that she was enjoying herself.

Anyway, it's another busy week coming up. Dunno how I'll find enough hours in the day to do everything I need or want to do, but I'm sure I'll figure something out.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "Take My Breath Away" (yes, that "Take My Breath Away." I think they've got a warped sense of humor)

Sunday, October 15, 2006

"A Kiss To Build A Dream On"

Another busy week has rushed past me, and I've barely had time to catch my breath. Helping Wendy work on the set on Monday, class on Tuesday and Wednesday, and just more work than anyone really wants anything to do with the rest of the week.

Michelle's been sick again this weekend. She thinks it's my fault, but I keep trying to tell her that allergies are not contagious. And that's what I've had, I'm sure: allergies. My symptoms responded to allergy medicine, hers did not. I think that speaks for itself.

Last night, we went and saw Wendy's latest show, The Girls of the Garden Club. I swear, the 1970s living room set looks exactly like so many of my friends' houses back in Oklahoma. The wood paneling, the garrish wallpaper, the gross carpet's like stepping back in time to a decade that we just wish would go away. The show itself was pretty good. There were some decent gags and fairly solid acting, though there were quite a few dropped cues and some stumbled lines that there shouldn't have been. I'm sure next week's run will be even stronger. Might have to go back and watch it again.

The latest evidence that Michelle and I are becoming adults and actually getting married: we got a joint cellphone plan last night. Actually, we just added a line to her existing plan, but that means I'm on hers instead of my parents' (which is how it was back in Oklahoma) or on my roommates' (which is how it's been here until now). We also checked to see how much it would cost to add each other to car insurance; looks like we'll just put her car on my insurance instead of the other way around, 'cause it's significantly cheaper. We've also started discussing things like health insurance (should we try to get one of us on the other's health insurance? Or should we each maintain our own separate policies?) and the purchase of cars and houses. It's made me feel a little too much like an adult; I think I may have to spend part of the afternoon playing videogames just to balance things out.

In other news, my computer mouse--the wireless optical mouse I bought about three years ago--has crapped out on me all the sudden. It was working fine Friday afternoon, but Friday evening the optical laser wouldn't work right and kept turning off. I could get a few seconds of use out of it each time before I had to hit the button on the bottom of the mouse to reconnect the mouse and (hopefully) get the laser going again. Rather than continue fighting the mouse, Michelle just loaned me her trackball. It's starting to grow on me. I don't usually like trackballs, for some reason, but it works pretty well. Just takes some practice, I guess.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Greer Zoller (Live)"

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

"Great A'Tuin"

If someone wanted to make me this cake at some point in the near future--say, for my wedding--I think it's entirely possible I would call that person my new best friend.


Song of the Moment: Roger McGuinn, "Up to Me"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"Say Yes"

The three-day weekend turned out great, aside from me getting kinda sick. I think it's just allergies, and truth be told I already feel a lot better than I did Sunday or Monday. It's mostly head congestion, sinus pressure, and way more mucous than I thought you could fit in the human nostril, but that's just the way of things. It's mostly just had me kinda run down and achey, but I'm recovering and made it through a full day of school and class tonight without dying.

Meg and Bob's wedding on Sunday was really nice. It was a simple, understated affair that featured readings from Carl Sandberg and Bob singing a song slightly out-of-key but with true and heartfelt emotion, so that was cool. The reception was a barbeque/charcoal affair, featuring hamburgers and hotdogs and the like. And an open bar. I myself didn't take advantage of said open bar, as I was the driver and had to get us home, but most everyone at our table at the reception (Michelle, Ken and his wife Rebecca, and Wendy and Tim) took advantage of free booze that was liberally doled out.

I also got engaged.

So yeah, funny story: Michelle and I are sitting there on the porch of the building where they did the reception, chatting and enjoying the beautiful night. We're not really talking about anything of importance; in fact, I don't really remember what we were talking about at all. There's a pause, then she looks over at me and says, "So, wanna get married?" To which I stammer, "What? Like, right now?" She seriously meant within the next week or two, but we're actually gonna wait until April. But I said yes, we both broke out in huge grins and started giggling, then we went back inside and joined our friends. It was simple, quick, and felt right.

Then the car got stuck in some mud and it took a truck, a rope, and four guys pushing to get it out of said mud. So much for the power of the SUV.

But yeah, I'm engaged. It's sort of a weird feeling, in a way. I mean, I'm basically a kid in a lot of respects, but this feels like it's what we should be doing, and who am I to stand in the way of that? Plus, Michelle said I could be a house husband after she gets her CPA and starts her own business, so that's cool. I like the idea of getting to stay home and keep house and have time to write and stuff. Plus she said I could pursue my PhD. The woman knows the way to my heart, that's for sure.

Anyway, we've got a tentative date set for April. We're looking into locations now, trying to figure out how we want to do it all. We're thinking something very simple; an elopement, really, except our family will be there. It's a strictly family affair, but we're going to have a big party/open house thing in July and try to get as many of our friends to come out and visit us as possible. We'll see just how many people we can cram into this apartment. It'll be keen.


Song of the Moment: Mark Knopfler, "Prarie Wedding"

Saturday, October 07, 2006

"A Memory From Your Lonesome Past"

The weeks fly by but seem to drag at the same time. So busy. Class every Tuesday and Thursday nights, ceaseless working during the day, and weekends that aren't ever nearly long enough.

The classes are progressing okay. We had a debate Thursday night about inclusions (keeping students with LD in the general education classroom), and I totally rocked the debate. "Pwned," as they say in the vernacular.

I got the Martin and the Fender both restrung this afternoon. They sound so nice now. This means that all four (!) guitars I own are tuned up and with (reasonably) new strings (the Epiphone was changed like three or four months ago, but it rarely gets played so the strings are still good).

The temperature dropped down into the forties yesterday, which was fine by me. I like cold weather, you'll remember, and I'm happy to finally see the back of summer...though it's always possible the temperature will climb back up during the week and render me a sweaty, miserable mess. The one downside to the weather change has been that my seasonal allergies seem to be kicking in: I'm stopped up, I have junk in my throat, and I've a bit of a headache. Hopefully all this will pass soon enough.

Current events on Capital Hill do nothing but fill me with rage. The whole Foley case especially really upsets me, in large part because he's trying the Mel Gibson defense: "It was alcohol what made me do it, honest!" he seems to cry. Yeah, he's blaming alcoholism for his sending sexually explicit emails to young teenage pageboys. Folks, pay attention: alcohol doesn't make you do things you wouldn't do otherwise. It may relax your inhibitions, but it does not change the sort of things you think, say, or would be willing to do. It just makes you slightly more likely to think, say, or do them. I don't care if he was drunk off his ass every single time he sent one of those emails, he is still culpable.

Our society lets too many people off the hook because they refuse to take responsibility for their actions. People used to say "the Devil made me do it" or "I was possessed by an evil spirit." Do we believe that some evil spirit inhabited someone's body and made them kill a person? No. But we do something very similiar each time we deny a person's responsibility for his or her actions. "Oh, he couldn't help it, he's alcoholic." Saying that not only negates the guy's responsibility for whatever stupid-ass crap he pulled, it denies his agency and his choice.

Okay, clearly I'm full of too much rage about this. I've a wedding to go to tomorrow (Meg and Bob! Hurray!), so that should be fun. Plus, the reception will be serving barbeque, and I dig me some barbeque.


Song of the Moment: Thom Yorke, "Atoms for Peace"

Sunday, October 01, 2006

"Talk Is Cheap Almost All The Time"

God, what a week it's been. Class on Tuesday and Thursday nights, Back-to-School Night on Wednesday...I've barely had a day to breathe. But I managed to get the comic updated on time every night, so that's a good sign. Just wish I had a little more breathing space.

Spent most of yesterday sitting in Wal-Mart, waiting for them to change my oil and rotate/balance my tires. Took them 4 1/2 hours. Good thing I didn't have any pressing engagements.

Spent this afternoon helping Wendy build set, and this evening hanging out with Michelle and trying to focus on getting stuff accomplished for one of my classes (which didn't go as well as I'd have liked, but hey, what can you do?).

Next week should be slightly less hectic. No Back-to-School Night, so Wednesday is free at least. Next Sunday is Meg and Bob's wedding, so we'll all be in attendance at that. I'm sure I'll be forced to wear a shirt with a collar. I might even have to tuck it it, something I didn't even do for Back-to-School night. We'll see.

If the weather should maintain it's recent trend, I'd be a happy man indeed. Mid-60s is perfect weather, as far as I'm concerned.


Song of the Moment: They Might be Giants, "We Want a Rock"

Sunday, September 24, 2006

"An Epic Experience"

So VirginFest (as they called the music festival thing yesterday) was a blast. We got there pretty damn early (about 9.30 am. They didn't even open the doors until around 10 or 10.30) and we stayed until the end (about 10 pm). The breakdown of the bands is as follows:

Drive-By Truckers: These guys were great. They do a country-rock sorta thing along the lines of Blue Mountain. They rocked hard and had a pedal steel guitar player. And three electric guitars. That's a hell of a guitar onslaught. Definitely need to check out some of their albums.

Wolfmother: I'd heard good things about these guys, but in concert they struck me as a third-rate ersatz Zeppelin. I mean, they were okay, but they seemed entirely too impressed with themselves by the fact that they could create distortion and feedback. And the guitarist guy was unnecessarily hard on his guitars not because it fit, but because he was trying to say, "look at me, I'm hardcore." So yeah, ot all that impressed, but they had a few decent songs and some solid guitar work.

The Raconteurs: These guys rocked hard. Excellent guitar work, great stage presence, everything was great. Cleansed the pallate after the disappointment of Wolfmother.

Gnarls Barkley: Again, I was not impressed by these guys. Their sound is supposed to be pretty unique, but they struck me as a funk/pop band. It's been done, and it's been done better. And their song, "Crazy," is pretty blah if you ask me.

The Killers: These guys are convinced it's still the 1980s, and that isn't a good thing. Lead singer wanted to be Bono in the worst way, but didn't have the range for it. Also wanted to do some Bruce Springsteen-style story songs about the plight of the working class, but dude just didn't have the ability. Another pass.

The Who: Guys kicked as much ass as I'd hoped. Totally worth it. Did a great medley from Tommy to end the show, which was surprising and cool. These guys may be old, and Roger Daltry may not have the vocal range he once did (let's not talk about Pete Townsend's vocal range, please), but they still know how to rock hard. Besides, they've got Zac Starkey (son of Ringo) playing drums for them, and that's always cool.

Scissor Sisters: Only caught the last about 15 minutes of their show. Pretty fun dance-pop, though I'm not too keen on disco-inflected pop. Their cover of "Comfortably Numb" still bugs me, though.

Flaming Lips: These guys alone made the whole day worth it. Easily one of my top five shows ever. Everyone (well, except for one of the girls who was with us who doesn't like the Flaming Lips for some reason) had a smile plastered across their face as we sang along at the top of our lungs. And Wayne Coyne likes his fog machine. And his giant balloons. And his confetti.

Overall, great experience. I'm sad Michelle didn't get to go, but it did give me the opportunity to see some damn good bands.


Song of the Moment: The Flaming Lips, "Free Radicals (Live)"

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

"Form Blazing Sword!"

So we didn't have school today. Apparently the transformer blew, so we didn't have power. Hard to teach students in classrooms with no light (and dude, the bathrooms were pitch-freakin' black. So we sent all the kids home, did a bit of inservice, and then went home ourselves. I spent my free afternoon preparing for classes, watching Voltron, and napping.

Ah, introduction to anime, way back in the mid-1980s. I remember thinking at the time that this was the coolest damn show ever. It had a great theme song, the toys rocked, and the animation style was totally unlike anything else on TV (well, except Robotech). The show's not as bad as I feared it would be, but the animation is definitely early '80s anime (the show was originally done in 1980-81 in Japan, and came over to America in a chopped-up, spliced-together form in 1984) and you'd think that the bad guy would stop relying on the same plan every time (try to separate the five pilots of Voltron so they can't form the robot, then let the witch or the general guy send a giant robeast to attack and destroy Voltron). But overall, it's a fun nostalgia fest, and I'll definitely be picking up the other sets when they come out. Because there's something about having my childhood on DVD that appeals to me, for some reason.

I have to find a hat for Friday. We're having a Spirit Day at school, and the theme is Hat Day. So yeah, I need a hat. I'm thinking something snappy in the fedora style...

I spent four and a half hours last night in a class that should have taken ten minutes. We're doing a midpoint portfolio thing, and it's a pain in the butt. Not, though, because of the portfolio itself. That's pretty simple, since I've been doing them since I was a freshman in college. No, what was annoying about this was that (1) I had to pay another $200 dollars for this crap and (2) the woman made it sound significantly more complicated than it really could possibly be, and she did it for over four hours. So I'm pretty fed up with that.

It's an absolutely gorgeous day out today. If I didn't still have the gout bothering me (though it's nearly gone now), I would have gone for a walk this afternoon.


Song of the Moment: Voltron Theme Song

Sunday, September 17, 2006

"Standing In The Alpha Beta Parking Lot"

Had a good weekend. Michelle, her sister Alison, Chad, and myself went to a Thai restaurant for dinner last night, then watched MST3K, Animaniacs, and Golden Girls (yes, I'm aware of how bizarre that combination is).

The cleaning lady came by today and the apartment is sparkling clean once more. It's kinda nice to come home from church and see the whole place neat and tidy.

The 7-Eleven around the corner from us is closing tomorrow, apparently. Dunno why. The place is always full of people, and Lord knows I'm there once every couple of days for stuff. Strange things indeed.

Already got tomorrow's comic drawn and uploaded. So that's pretty swifty.


Song of the Moment: Thom Yorke, "Harrowdown Hill"

Thursday, September 14, 2006

"One Foot On The Pedal"

So yeah, my gout flared back up on Monday. I've been hobbling all week long, though this bout hasn't been as bad as previous flare-ups. I have had to give up on caffiene, which is a real wrench, but it was probably for the best. I did have a nasty caffiene headache Tuesday night. Felt like my head was gonna split open. Seeing and hearing got kinda difficult around 8.00 pm Tuesday night, which sucked since that was about the time I got out of class and had to drive home in the dark.

It's been raining and cold all week. Which is nice, in a way, 'cause it's been a great temperature for me. Dunno how long it'll last, but it's good for now.

School and the class I'm taking are going well, though the class is gonna be pretty boring (and there's a second, significantly more pointless class that we have to take simultaneously that I have to pay more money for. Dammit).


Song of the Moment: Barenaked Ladies, "Bank Job"

Monday, September 11, 2006

Open Letter to John Mayer

Hey John,

Dude, stop. Just...stop trying to be a bluesman. You're not. You're a pop singer. Yeah, okay, you can play the guitar, and your technical grasp may amaze those who've never heard real blues, but seriously, you're pretty bland. You do cookie-cutter, by-the-numbers blues tunes, you try to sound like Stevie Ray Vaughn, and you think this'll make you a true bluesman. It doesn't. Everything about your music--whether you're trying to play the blues or anything else--is too processed and calculated to be real. It's inauthentic. You might impress the teeny-boppers who don't know any better, but you can't fool me. There's more to the blues than the notes you play or the words you sing, and you seem to think that paying lip service to the style is sufficient to create true blues music.

So. Go back to your DMB-clone pop. Leave the blues alone. Leave it to the people who actually put something true into the music. You'll be doing us all a favor.


Song of the Moment: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, "Look at Little Sister"

Saturday, September 09, 2006

"The Sound From A Hundred Dollar Guitar"

I finally got the Yamaha guitar restrung last night. It took three sets of strings, all for one damned B string that kept breaking every time I tried to put a new one on (every other string on the guitar? Got 'em on the first try. I had to buy two sets of strings specifically for one string, which is pretty damn annoying). The guitar has a really nice sound and plays real easy. And hey, since I got it for free from one of my students' parents, I really can't complain.

Had a dream last night that I got an electric guitar from someone for free. Then I got in a guitar duel against some punk kid (a kid who was a little shit, mind you, not that he was a punk punk) who thought he was hot stuff. I remember that, in the dream, the kid really rubbed me the wrong way. I also remember that the place where this was all happening was in Shawnee, but I was there with students and teachers from my school here in Virginia. We were on a field trip there for some reason. And then the driver's side door on the van wouldn't close when we left. I don't know how all of that is connected, but I'm sure it is somehow.

So yeah, lots of guitar-related stuff, eh? Good times.

Made it through the first week of actual classes at school. My students all seem pretty good. Looks like I'll have a good year. They all seem pretty interested in the classes they've got with me, so that's good.


Song of the Moment: The Wallflowers, "Ashes to Ashes"

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

"Beyond The Horizon"

Well, y'know how I said I doubted Dylan's latest--though it's a great album--would bring any new members to the fold? I might've been wrong, since Modern Times grabbed the #1 spot on the sales charts last week. Couldn't have happened to a better album (though I wonder if Ray Lamontagne's latest managed to chart in the top ten or even top twenty. It deserves to. Go out and buy Till the Sun Turns Black right now. And Modern Times. You'll be doing yourself a favor, honest).

I doubt this means that America has come to its musical senses and will stop buying prefabricated dreck (after all, Paris Hilton's "album" came out, too, and landed in the top ten. God only knows why). I can dream, though.

My history co-teacher has an electric guitar he might sell me cheap. It's nothing fancy (hell, I'm not even sure it's a brand I've ever heard of), but it'd play and it'd sate my desire to have an electric with which to rock out, as they say in the parlance of our times.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Nettie Moore"

"Boy Broken Toy Soldier"

I'm supposed to like the White Stripes, aren't I? I mean, minimalist rock, right? Clif and I are about as minimalist as it gets (vocals and guitar, baby!). Blues and psychadelia blended into some good ol' fashioned straight-ahead rock. That's good, right? Strange, sometimes nonsensical lyrics. I listen to Dylan, don't I? Hell, I even like the Raconteurs.

I've never been able to bring myself to like their stuff, though. It's weird: something about them just rubs me the wrong way. I couldn't even begin to tell you what it is, though.

I think part of it is that they were supposed to be part of this pack of bands that were going to "save" rock and roll in the first couple of years of the 21st century. Them and the Strokes, and maybe the Hives and some other bands I don't remember and never liked. Can't stand the Strokes. I tried, I really did. I bought Room on Fire, which everyone said was a fantastic album, and I barely got through it once. Couldn't handle it. Too murky. Too bland. The vocals were pushed so deep into the mix that the guy might as well not have even been singing (if you could even call it that). Granted, when I read the lyrics in the liner notes, the inability to hear/understand the words didn't seem like such a bad thing.

But no, I don't think I've ever really cared for the White Stripes. I've tried, Lord knows. I watched a couple of their videos, downloaded their cover of Dylan's "One More Cup of Coffee (The Valley Below)" (which hurt. It really, really hurt), tried to listen to one of their albums...I just couldn't do it. Sad, really, 'cause I'm sure there's something in there worth something.


Song of the Moment: The Raconteurs, "Hands"

Monday, September 04, 2006

Bob Dylan - Modern Times

It's a good time to be a fan of Dylan. His last three records now--Time Out of Mind, Love & Theft, and now Modern Times--have all been jaw-droppingly fantastic. A man in his early 60s shouldn't be able to make music that is vital and immediate, your brain tells you.

Don't listen to your brain. It is lying to you, as it does with so many things.

Trust rather your ears, which will hear some of the best damn music out there on Modern Times. Falling somewhere in style and tone between Time Out of Mind and Love & Theft, Modern Times seems actually anything but. Dylan uses genres and song forms that were popular sixty, even seventy years ago, bouncing between traditional pop, jump blues, ballads, and apocalpytic ruminations about women, the world, and what went wrong with both of them. Lyrically, this album is at least as strong as Time Out of Mind or Love & Theft, leaning more towards the end-of-the-world wearniess of the former than the sentimentality of the latter (though he manages to mix the two quite well on a few songs, especially "Ain't Talkin'." I don't know how he does it, either).

These songs feel immediate and crafted, the work of a man who's been making music for well over 40 years now. There's an effortless competency to these songs, a sense that Dylan could crank out potential classic after potential classic in this way until the day he died (oh please let this be the case, ohpleaseohpleaseohplease).

This isn't to say the record is perfect. The major flaw is one Dylan's suffered from for decades: knowing when to stop. Some of the songs run on a bit too long and could have benefited from some judicious editing (the beautiful "Spirit on the Water," for instance, is a fantastic song with some great lyrics, but it just keeps going. Nearly eight minutes is just too much, given how little variation there is in the instrumentation in the song, and the circular guitar riff is nice but gets old after about five minutes). Dylan's always had a tendency to let songs go on longer than they should ("Stuck Inside of Mobile With The Memphis Blues Again" jumps readily to mind), but it's a weakness that a good majority of these songs suffer from. For an album that only runs 10 songs, it lasts for an hour. But at its best moments, you don't notice this. The songs generally flow pretty well, and Dylan's backing band is supple and muscular like an Olympic runner (but not one of those Olympians on steroids. No, this is one of those lean, wiry runners who can leg it down the track really damn fast, but usually prefers the long-distance events where they can pace themselves, run forever, and still have a burst of unexpected energy in the last 100 yards).

Despite that tortured metaphor, Dylan's backing band--his touring band for the past several years, though sadly now minus Charlie Sexton (damn you for pursuing solo interests, Charlie Sexton! Even if your solo work is so damn good)--is the perfect complement to Dylan's songs and his voice (no mean feat, lemme tell ya. His voice just gets more worn-out each time).

Overall, this is just another great album from a man who has clearly reached a late-career peak. While it probably won't win him any new converts to the fold, he's not really making music to win new listeners. He's just making the music he'd want to listen to, and the rest of us just get the benefit of that fact.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Ain't Talkin'"

Sunday, September 03, 2006

"Real Art has the capacity to make us nervous."

Apparently the Crocodile Hunter died. So that's kinda weird.

Made it through Orientation week, though only just barely. Work time is entirely too early each morning, if you ask me. Coworkers seem pretty good, though, and my classes are gonna be neat.

Had a weird weekend. Michelle got ill last night, my car got towed, and we were forced to watch the tremendous trainwreck that has become Sharon Stone's career in the form of Basic Instinct 2. I felt this film needed a good subtitle, one of those that comes after a colon. Like BI2: Basic Harder or BI2: You Might Get to See Sharon Stone's Hoo-Haa, But Don't Count On It. Everything about that movie was pure crap. Poor David Thewlis needs someone to make career choices for him. He's a good actor, but he has no ability to choose a decent flick (he was also in the recent remake of The Omen, which was also a dud). His accent was also a tour of the British Isles, shifting from Scottish to Welsh to Cockney to Northumbrian with little to no provocation. And the sex scenes in this flick...the director was apparently under the misapprehension that violent thrusting is sexy. And that what the world really wants to hear is Sharon Stone uttering lines like "You know how some guys are into blondes, and some guys are into killers?" without a hint of irony or actual emotion. It was easily one of the worst movies I've ever seen, and I've seen Supersonic Man (and Meteor Man, but we're not gonna talk about that).

Anyway, we've got this groovy three-day weekend going on, and Monday is gonna be a whole lot of me sitting around not doing a damned thing. I might clean my room, as stuff has just sorta piled up everywhere, and I might work a bit more on stuff for school. Aside from that, it's easy street.


Song of the Moment: Mark Knopfler, "Back to Tupelo"

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

"Why Do Little Blue Midgets Hit Me With Fish?"

Got the new Bob Dylan and Ray Lamontagne CDs last night. Also picked up Season 1 of The Tick. Man, that show kicked ass. I had high hopes for the live-action version they did a few years back, but it never really lived up to expectations (even if it had Patrick Warburton in it).

The new Dylan album is great. Very mellow, digs deep into traditional American musical styles. Sweet. Ray Lamontagne's new record is also really freakin' cool. Sounds very different from his first album, drops the country-rock-meets-Van Morrison feel of his first record in favor of a very atmospheric, R&B-tinged collection. I'll try to have something more substantial to say about both of those later this week.

I got my schedule for school today. It's pretty good, for the most part, though there are a few things about it that annoy me: for instance, I'm helping out in an Algebra class. My math skills are, of course, pretty pathetic. Non-existant, some might say. But that's okay, 'cause I get to do three history classes (US History, World History I, and World History II). I'm also helping in an English class, since the new woman we hired to teach English quit last week before school even started. I'm also helping out in Art, which is always groovy.

The most interesting class, to me, is that I get to teach a Humanities class. When I asked my boss what she wanted me to do with it, she basically said it was up to me. I've been kicking around ideas with Michelle and Wendy, and I've got five or six different units figured out for the class. We'll see what I come up with (like textbooks...don't have any of those yet).

We learned CPR today at the school. It's been about a decade since I last did CPR, so it was interesting to see how much I'd retained of it (of course, it's not like CPR is that difficult or changed that much in ten years).

Tomorrow's more orientation crap. Most of this stuff is really useful for the new teachers, but not for the returning teachers. I mostly just want time to get the classroom in order and get some lesson plans written up. We'll see.


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "Thunder on the Mountain"

Sunday, August 27, 2006

"As If In A Dream"

So I start back to work tomorrow after my two weeks off. Seems like it was a lot less than that, but that's because I spent so much of it running around Oklahoma. It'll be nice to get back into things, though. I've got a lot of ideas for the new school year that I really want to impliment. We'll see how long this enthusiasm lasts.

I'm really hoping that music appreciation class they asked me about will come through. I'd have a blast teaching that, and I think the students would learn a whole lot from it. Plus, hey, I'd be getting paid to talk about, listen to, and play music. You can't beat that. And genre analysis. That's always fun. I'll have to do some of that.

I'm going to have to take a couple of the guitars back to school with me tomorrow. There's not enough room for all four of the acoustics here in my room. I'll take the Epiphone and the Fender, I think, and then the Yamaha once I get it restrung. Then I'll grab the Fender again, restring it, and take it back to school. I have no idea where I'll store these at school, either, but I'm sure I'll come up with something.

The Martin, of course, remains in its place of power next to the bed, where I can grab it quickly and play to my heart's content.


Song of the Moment: Golden Smog, "I'll be There (Live)"

Friday, August 25, 2006

Dylan Owns You

Bob Dylan's upcoming release, Modern Times, gets a five-star review from Rolling Stone. It comes out on Tuesday, and you know I'll be at the store as soon as possible to pick up my copy.

He's also gonna tour behind the album (of course: Dylan's Never-Ending Tour isn't just a clever name), with bands such as Kings of Leon, the Foo Fighters, and Jack White's Raconteurs opening for him. He'll be in Fairfax on November 17, and I'm planning on being there, too ('cause I just can't get enough Dylan, even if you can't understand a word he sings anymore).

The record sounds like it'll be promising. I've heard some audio clips of it, and this is some very vital if a tad traditional music (we're talking ragtime, blues, folk, rockabilly,'s like the first fifty or sixty years of the 20th century wrapped up in one neat package).


Song of the Moment: Bob Dylan, "High Water (for Charlie Patton)

"Pick Up My Guitar And Play"

The time I spent with Clif in the past two weeks greatly increased certain aspects of my understanding of the guitar. He helped me figure out two songs I'd been wanting to play, and taught me (in large part) how to pick up a song by ear.

It's relatively simple, actually, if you can pick up on at least one or two chords in a song. Most songs rely on groups of chords. The grouping I'm most familiar with is good ol' GCDEm (many Dylan songs, a couple of Bruce Springsteen tunes, most of the songs Clif and I have written). About half of all rock and roll (and a lot of country and folk) songs use these four chords, mixing them up and rearranging them to suit the individual song. After you know that's what chord progression they're using, it's a simple matter of picking up on the way they've arranged the chords, which is pretty easy when you know what each chord is supposed to sound like. I can pick up on GCDEm songs very quickly now, though occasionally someone throws in a strange chord in a GCDEm song and I have to adapt.

But that's certainly not the only chord grouping out there. I don't know how many there are (hell, I'm not even sure how many guitar chords there are, technically), but I know of at least a couple other groupings. One is the ever-popular EADB7. EAD is another common rock and roll progression (U2's "Desire," the Romantics' "What I Like About You," and who knows how many others), and the EAB7 is the progression for virtually all blues and rockabilly songs. I kinda lump them all togther because I'm fairly certain they're in the same grouping.

But Clif taught me another grouping during our visit: CFGAm. It's commonly used in country music, and the three songs I've been playing lately that use that grouping are Tom Petty's "Rebels" (from Southern Accents, his concept album about the South), the Old 97's "Barrier Reef," and Golden Smog's "V." They're all fun songs to play, though the F still gives me trouble (curse you, barre chords!).

Anyway, it's been fun expanding my musical abilties and knowledge, even if it's not by all that much.


Song of the Moment: Golden Smog, "V"

Thursday, August 24, 2006

"I've Never Been To Heaven, But I've Been To Oklahoma"

Well, I've made a safe trip to and from Oklahoma, seen numerous family members, and driven much more than I really wanted to. A rundown of the trip:

Monday, August 14: Wendy and I take Clif to the Metro so he can get to National, then Wendy takes me to Dulles. Turns out, however, that I'm supposed to fly out of National myself. A rush back to National brings me to the airport about four hours too early. Manage to get to Tulsa, Oklahoma on time, where dad picks us up and drives us to his house. Spend the night in Grove with dad. Meet dad's girlfriend, Vivian, who bakes a mean double chocolate cookie.

Tuesday: Dad drives us to Shawnee, where we pick up Clif's truck and stay over with my dad's parents. We are fed. This will become something of a pattern wherever we go. Crash with grandparents.

Wednesday: Clif and I drive up to Witchita, Kansas by way of Ponca City. We stop in Ponca to say hi to mom's parents and grab a bite to eat. Manage to get lost between Ponca and Witchita, though not too bad. Make it to Witchita mid-afternoon, visit with mom and meet her new husband, Kevin. Kevin is loud and boisterous and charming. Also ex-military. Also a creampuff on the inside. They fix us a tasty dinner.

Thursday: We get up and mom takes Clif and I shopping. Clif finds new running shoes, I find a couple of new shirts for work. Everything is coming up Milhouse. More excellent food for dinner.

Friday: Clif heads off for Shawnee and I borrow mom's car and head to Norman. See Ev and go to hear my uncle's band play. Crash at Randy and Donna's house on their couch.

Saturday: Drive to Shawnee for big family dinner. Eat good food, hang out with all sorts of family members (both siblings, dad, Vivian, Randy & Donna, my cousin Chris and his daughter Bailey and Chris's girlfriend, my great-aunt Bev, and my grandparents), play some guitar with Clif, dad, and Randy. Head back to Norman to visit with Ev some more, then go hear my uncle's band play again. Get to get on stage and sing and play "Brown-Eyed Girl" with them using my uncle's Stratocaster. Totally makes my day. Crash at Randy and Donna's again, this time in a bed.

Sunday: Have lunch with Jessica and Dominic and their little son, Jack, at Tarahumara's in Norman (still my favorite Mexican restaurant), then drive back to Shawnee to visit with my grandparents. End up staying the night, getting to see dad again on his way back from taking Scott up to school. Clif also leaves for Austin on this day. Talk to a couple of friends on the phone that night, including Mary, a girl from church. Crash with grandparents again.

Monday: Get up and have donuts with Mary, whom I'd managed to con into waking up early to meet me for breakfast. Hard to believe she's grown up so much. I remember this girl and her sisters from when they came up to about my waist and spent most of their time kicking me in the shins and running away giggling. We chat for a couple of hours about various things, then I get on the road to go back to Witchita to give mom her car back. I stop in Ponca City so my grandparents can go up there with me (I have to get back somehow, after all). We get to mom's place, I give her the car back, and mom and grandma go shopping. My grandfather proceeds to wipe the floor with me in 9 out of 10 games of pool. The ladies return, the grandparents take me out for dinner, and we go back to Ponca.

Tuesday: Grandad and I go golfing. I play poorly, but it's been a good five years since my last round of golf, so I think I have an excuse. Towards the end I'd actually started remembering how to play. Had fun regardless. Spend the rest of the afternoon and evening just lounging around my grandparents' house.

Wednesday: We get up and hit the road for Tulsa, stopping in Cleveland, Oklahoma for lunch. Great little place there on Main Street called the Broadway Cafe. Then we continue on, arriving at the airport amidst a bit of a rain shower. It clears up by the time my flight leaves. First flight has no air conditioning, so there's the stench of lots of B.O. in the air. It's a full flight on one of those little puddle jumpers, so this kinda sucks. Second flight - from Memphis to DC - is fantastic. It's a bigger plane and only about half-full. I actually have room for my legs and there's no one in the seat next to me. I arrive early at the airport, and Michelle meets me. She's having an eye issue, so I end up driving us back to Fairfax, thus ending my vacation.

Anyway, it was a good time. I was glad I got to see so many of my relatives. I wish the trip had been either a lot longer or a lot shorter (longer so I could have had more time to visit with folks, or shorter so that I only had time to go one or two places). It's good to be back in one place, though, especially since I have to start back to school next week with preparatory work and all that.

My plans for of the rest of the week are quite simple: I'm gonna sit around and relax. I might re-organize (well, organize. Re-organize implies there was organization to begin with) the closet. That in itself is a major undertaking, but one I feel I have the time to tackle.


Song of the Moment: Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, "Pride and Joy"

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

"Weary And Worn Out"

Got a call from Clif earlier this afternoon. He has arrived safely in the DC area, which is good. He'll do his conference thing until Friday, then we shall get together and all hell will break loose. Or we'll play some music. Y'know, whatever.

Wen and Tim are loaning me their iPod for the trip home. They never use the thing, so it just sits there gathering dust. I started putting my CDs in iTunes last night. I'm not doing all of my CDs, obviously, 'cause I don't need all of them and that'd take forever. I'm just cherry-picking the stuff I really want to have (most of my Dylan, my Beatles, Van, The Boss, Wilco, Elliott Smith, Tom Petty, the Flaming Lips...y'know, essentials), and I've already a day's worth of music put on the thing. 1.3 days' worth, actually, and I'm not even through the Dylan (keep in mind, I'm going through my collection alphabetically). I think I'll have enough music to keep me occupied in Oklahoma.


Song of the Moment: The Band and Friends, "I Shall Be Released (Live)"

Monday, August 07, 2006

"We Start This Time With Open Ears"

I stayed back this afternoon while the rest of the school went rollerblading. I'm not entirely heartbroken about this. I don't really care for rollerblading, and they were gonna have to go all the way to Manassas to do it. I stayed here and did a couple of errands for tomorrow's field trip.

The one big problem is that one student who didn't want to go stayed back. He's a nice-enough kid, but he can be very off-putting and frustrating. He never shuts up. Talks and mutters to himself constantly, but loud enough that I can hear him across the room. It's frustrating because I want to just turn around and yell "shut up!" at the top of my voice, but I can't do that. Gentle reminders don't really seem to do the trick, either, 'cause he starts right back up after a minute or two.

My friend Chad's driver's license somehow ended up in my school bag. I think it fell into the bag when he was laying down in the backseat on the way back to Fairfax after the trip to Fredericksburg on Saturday. Very strange.


Song of the Moment: My Morning Jacket, "The Way that he Sings"

"Pick Up My Guitar And Play"

Yesterday was a good day. I got to eat Arby's, and I always dig the roast beef. Michelle took a good nap on my bed while I cruised the internet last night, though apparently her ability to sleep disappeared as soon as she left my place.

Apparently one of my classes in the upcoming school year might be "music appreciation." I'll basically be paid to have the kids listen to music and learn guitar chords. Can't really beat a deal like that, and it's a lot better than ending up helping in a math class or something one period a day.

Anyway, off to do teacher-type things.


Song of the Moment: Glen Phillips, "Thank You"

Sunday, August 06, 2006

"You'll Get Paid On The Moon"

It's been a gorgeous weekend here in Northern VA. The sun's been out, but the temperature is a good fifteen degrees cooler than it was earlier in the week (brining daytime highs down into the mid-80s). At night, it's actually dropped into the 70s, meaning I was able to drive home after dropping Chad and Michelle off with my windows down. It's fantastic.

Friday night was spent hanging out with Chad and Michelle. We watched a couple of episodes of Curb Your Enthusiasm and then the Woody Allen film Crimes and Misdemeanors, so it was an evening well-spent. Saturday morning and afternoon were spent shopping for presents for various family members. I found stuff for Clif and Dad; now I just need to find something for mom and for Bailey (whose birthday will come next month).

Saturday evening, Michelle, Chad, and I made a jaunt down to Fredericksburg for a gathering at some friends' apartment. Stories were told, discussions were had, and we listened to some Eric Clapton. When we finally left, Michelle was exhausted, Chad had a headache, and my eyes were sore. We were a motley crew.

It's been a pretty relaxed weekend, overall. Which is probably good, considering I won't really have any chances to relax for the next couple of weeks and weekends. Next week is the last week of summer school. I also need to get my room in some semblance of order before Clif arrives on Friday. He'll be in the DC area starting Tuesday, but he has a conference thing he has to participate in until Friday afternoon. We're going to hang out together next weekend, then board separate planes to head to Oklahoma. Then it's time for my week and a half where the winds come sweepin' down the plains, during which I'll visit many friends and family (note to self: need to contact friends to let them know I'm coming). Then I come back to Virginia, rest for a couple of days, and then teacher orientation/preparation arrives and I have to start work and stuff. The summer is rushing to its conclusion, and I only hope there's some time in there somewhere for me to relax a bit.


Song of the Moment: Moxy Fruvous, "You Will go to the Moon"

Thursday, August 03, 2006

"We've Got Three Chords And Some Compelling Lies"

So you might notice I stuck a new link the sidebar there: one which says "Cross-Eyed Yeti." I broke down and got a MySpace thingie for the Yeti. I added four of our songs to the site, all of which can be downloaded (if that's the sort of thing you like). It's something I decided to do as part of efforts to get a gig or two in the northern VA area. I can point folks towards this and say, "hey, here's a sample of our stuff."

I went rock climbing with the students this afternoon. My brain said, "hey, you can climb this wall." My body said, "are you insane?! Do you have any idea how much we weigh now?!" My arms, wrists, and hands are very sore right now as a result. Typing is difficult, and I don't think there's gonna be a comic tonight as a result. We'll just have to see.


Song of the Moment: Led Zeppelin, "Babe I'm Gonna Leave You"

Monday, July 31, 2006

"The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down"

So apparently E3--the Electronic Entertainment Expo, or "thousands of unwashed gamers get together to be lied to by the major gaming companies," is no more. Apparently the press event where most major videogaming announcements are made every year was too expensive to keep putting on for the intangible returns the companies would get from it. So they're gonna just do smaller expos in various locations from now on.

Except...they've decided to ressurrect E3 as E3Expo...which I think is one of those redundancies like ATM Machine. Not really sure of the point myself. I was in favor of not having the big event anyway, because it means everyone saves up their big announcements (new systems, big games, etc.) for that one time. It's overkill during E3, and drought the rest of the year.

But honestly, who the hell cares? I certainly don't.

In more important news, I got paid today, and my paycheck was larger than I thought it would be. So that was nice.


Song of the Moment: The Jayhawks, "Waiting for the Sun"

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Tom Petty - Highway Companion

Let's go ahead and get the obvious out of the way: yes, this is the best album Petty's done since Wildflowers, his previous "solo" effort (when half of your backing band plays on most of the songs, can it really be called a "solo" effort?). Wildflowers was easily one of Petty's best albums ever, in large part because it seemed so effortless and natural and at ease. There was a simplicity to the songs--even songs that featured strings like "It's Good to be King"--that was in stark contrast to the two Jeff Lynne-helmed albums that came before it, Full Moon Fever and Into the Great Wide Open. There was also almost no filler: the album was fantastic from beginning to end, and even the songs that felt like throwaways had a vitality and a feel to them that made them worth keeping on the record.

Then came a decade of fairly mediocre or run-of-the-mill Heartbreakers albums. Well, only two of them, actually: Echo and The Last DJ. Nothing from Echo really stood out that much. The songs weren't memorable, and though they had that simplicity of arrangement and production that Wildflowers had possessed, the record had none of Wildflowers' charm or naturalness to it. And The Last DJ, while an admirable idea, just didn't have the songs or the momentum to carry off the concept. Both Echo and The Last DJ were serious letdowns after the masterpiece that was Wildflowers.

So Highway Companion comes as a pleasant surprise and a strong return to form for Petty. This record is significantly more solo than his two previous solo albums: the only other players on the whole record are Mike Campbell and Jeff Lynne, who also produces. Petty himself plays guitar and drums on most every track, Lynne plays keyboards, bass, guitar, and various other instruments, and Mike Campbell plays guitar. Lots of guitar. Good guitar. Mike Campbell is still one of the best and most underrated guitar players in rock and roll.

Lynne's production is surprisingly restrained. Gone are his usual bombast and layer upon layer of instruments. These are very stripped-down arrangements, usually featuring just two guitars, bass, drums, and a keyboard. The music is straight-forward and simple, a consolidation of the style and feel of Tom Petty's entire career, really. This is uncluttered, well-crafted, working-man's roots rock, and Petty and Co. wear it well.

The stripped-down feel of the music fits the songs Petty's written for the album. While these are not career-statements like "Dont' Do Me Like That" or"American Girl" or "Free Fallin'" or even "Mary Jane's Last Dance," they are excellent examples of the various styles and themes Petty has played with since his career began. The opening bluesy rocker, "Saving Grace," feels like a ZZ Top-via-The Byrds tune. The ballads are careful and beautiful, the sentiment heartfelt without being trite or treaclely. The rockers are fun and shuffle along to a good rhythm. There's an undercurrent of sadness to the whole affair, though, a sense of aging and of a prime that's several years past. But Petty both rebels against and accepts the inevitable: while he isn't necessarily happy about becoming an elder statesman of rock and roll, he acknowledges just how long the road to where he is has been and that it's been worth the detours to get there. That element of sadness and melancholy is actually part of what makes the album so good: if this were just straight-ahead classic rock that was all girls, guitars, and fast cars, it would feel false and dishonest. But Petty's touch of grey grounds the album, strikes a balance between superficial "gee ain't it fun to rock and roll" tone of the lyrics and the yearning for the good ol' days that Petty allows to creep into his vocal delivery.

The album loses some momentum towards the end, where it's weighed down with too many ballads and mid-tempo songs that all follow similiar paths and themes. But even this can't really keep the album down; the songs Petty has written are still sharp and well-done. There's a commitment to this music that his previous two albums lacked. While Echo and The Last DJ may have had their themes (divorce and moving on/acceptance for Echo and the evils of corporate rock and roll for The Last DJ), the variation and lack of a unifying theme to Highway Companion actually serve it well. Petty was able to write the songs he wanted to rather than the songs that fit the concept, and the music benefits from this freedom.

Overall, it's hard not to like Highway Companion. While it may not be a watershed moment like his two previous solo albums (a pair of creative peaks in his career), it's still a solid reminder that Petty is a great musician, even thirty years into the gig.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Jack"

Saturday, July 29, 2006

"Got A Bomb In My Temple"

I have the headache to end all headaches. It's the Ur-headache, the headache of which all others are mere shadowy imitations. It's been tough doing anything other than sit here and not do anything all day.

I also had the weirdest dream last night. I was driving through Shawnee down Kickapoo Street, only I was going way too fast. I kept running red lights and actually rear-ended a couple of cars. It didn't matter how hard I put on the breaks, I couldn't stop. I woke up with every muscle in my body tensed and aching. I think it's probably just a manifestation of my concerns about going home. I had no control over what happened with my parents a year ago (the whole separation thing started right after I left home), sorta like I had no control over the car in my dream. The whole thing with my folks still seems unreal to me, to be honest.

Spent last night hanging out with Michelle, Lauren, and Chad. I made the Bitchstick 4000 for Lauren. It's a cardboard tube useful for beating up jackass roommates, former significant others, and anyone who annoys you. It was originally designed for ending world hunger, but this seems like a good use for it, too.

I'm gonna go shower. Maybe that'll help loosen me up and relieve the ache.


Song of the Moment: Elliott Smith, "Somebody That I Used to Know"

Friday, July 28, 2006

The CDs In My Car

Happy Friday, folks. I for one am glad it's finally here.

I do most of my music listening in the car, 'cause I spend a lot of time driving to and from work and all. So here are the CDs that are in my car as of today and that I've been listening to all week...

1) Tom Petty, Highway Companion: Michelle got this for me Wednesday, and I've listened to it constantly since then. It left the car only to head to the CD player in the apartment that night. Great music for driving, though better for the late at night driving than the early morning drive to work. Easily the best thing he's done in about a decade.

2) The Beatles, Please Please Me: There's this joyous, vital energy to The Beatles' early stuff that just never cropped up in their later, more mature work. While this may be the sound of a band still finding itself, it's so much damn fun that you can't help but sing along at the top of your lungs.

3) Barenaked Ladies, Stunt: One of the CDs that convinced me that it was okay to like newer music. The manic energy of "One Week," the goofy sweetness of "Some Fantastic," the poignant sadness of "Light Up My Room" and "Told You So"'s just a great album from beginning to end. Still my favorite BNL record.

4) David Gray, Life in Slow Motion: Significantly mellower and more subdued than his previous stuff (and that's really saying something), this record still has some excellent stuff on it and a couple of great tunes like "Alibi," "Ain't No Love," and "Nos da Cariad" (I have no idea what that means, either).

So yeah. Weekend's almost here. Just a few more hours to freedom.


Song of the Moment: David Gray, "Alibi"

Thursday, July 27, 2006

"Sonny, Move Out To The Country"

A year ago today, I left Oklahoma--a state where I was born and spent most of my life--and arrived in the state of Virginia. In that year, I've found a teaching job, found a girlfriend, and generally had a great time living in the Northern Virginia/DC area. I've finally transitioned into that whole adulthood thing, which is probably a load off of most of my relatives' minds, and I've matured as a person in many ways (though in a lot of ways I remain exactly who I was).

Not all the changes have been good, of course. My parents' divorce was something of a shock, and the way I viewed the world was altered quite radically by that single event (or series of events, as it really was). I'm disconnected from most of my family (except for phone calls and occasional emails), and I don't have as much free time or creative energy as I did when I was working at the OU Athletic Department Writing Center. Money has become a major concern, since I really don't want to have to run to my folks each time I spend a little more than I should have.

Overall, though, I think the past year has shown that my move to Virginia was a move for the better. I'm happier and more confident than I was a year ago, more at ease with myself and those around me. I'm still a kid in a lot of ways--and probably always will be, to an extent--but I'm growing up. About damn time, probably.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Down South"

Butch Walker Live In Concert

So, the Butch Walker show at the the 9:30 Club was fantastic...once he finally got on stage. There were two opening acts, neither of which were particularly original or that good. The first was a sad Maroon 5 clone that thought turning on the "funk" effect on the keyboard would make them...well, funky. The lead singer was also under the impression he was Tom Jones, except he couldn't sing nearly that well. He also pulled out an ukelele at one point and played a uke with a wah-wah pedal. Seemed unnecessary to me. A little piece of my soul died when they asked the audience whether we wanted to hear a Beatles cover or a Radiohead cover. The Beatles "won," but I maintain that everyone loses when a band that bad tries to cover a band as good as the Beatles.

The second opening act was one of those pop-rock bands that sound like Good Charlotte and Dashboard Confessional and all those other bands that sound exactly alike and have no original ideas in their heads. It's not that the music was particularly bad, per se, just that there was nothing new about it.

Butch Walker's eventual arrival onstage made the previous two hours of agony seem all worthwhile. He's an excellent performer, and he really knows how to give the audience a hell of a good time. He tore through new and old songs alike, attacking the stuff from his days with the Marvelous 3 and his solo work with equal abandon and vigor. The Let's-Go-Out-Tonites! were a fantastic backing band; they were tight, supple, and fine-tuned throughout the show.

Overall, the Butch Walker show was about as good a rock show as you could ask for. The man knows how to play--both music and with his audience--and everyone seemed to have a good time. Can't wait until he comes through again.


Song of the Moment: Butch Walker, "Mixtape"

"I'll Never Dance With Another"

So yesterday was an interesting day. Michelle's car had a flat front passenger tire in the morning, so I came over to her place and put the spare on and led her to BJ's so she could get new tires. In accordance with Murphy's Law, the back passenger tire blew as she left the place. I ended up late to work because I was helping her change the tire, but it wasn't a problem because my first class of the day was with a student who won't be here for the rest of the summer. So I got off easy there, I guess.

We took the students to see Superman Returns yesterday afternoon. We were pretty much the only people in the theatre, which I figured wasn't a problem, really.

After work, I went over to visit Michelle, bringing with me food and DVDs to watch. She'd picked up the new Tom Petty for me as a way to thank me for taking care of the spare tire. I've said it before, I say it again: I have the coolest girlfriend ever.


Song of the Moment: Tom Petty, "Jack"